THESE "Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility" were written by Cardinal Herbert Vaughan during the last months of his life. Being ordered by his medical advisers out of London, the Cardinal went to Derwent, where, as the guest of Lord and Lady Edmund Talbot, he found that perfect freedom and multitude of peace of which he had long felt the need.
It was while reposing his soul in quiet prayer and feasting his sight on the fine scenery of this ideal spot among the moorlands of Derbyshire, that the thought came to him of translating, while yet there was time, Father Cajetan's treatise on Humility.
For more than thirty years Cardinal Vaughan had known and studied that work, and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say he had made it during the last fourteen years of his life his constant companion, his vade mecum.
What lessons it had taught him, what sights it had shown him, what stories it had told him, those only know to whom he revealed his inmost soul. However even those who knew the Cardinal less intimately could scarcely fail to realize in their dealings with him that they were treating with a man whose growing characteristic was humility of heart. A more truly humble man I have seldom, if ever, come across. It was the humility of a child, it was so sweet and simple, and yet so strong and saint-like-----may I not even venture to say, Christ-like?
It was the sort of humility that could not go wrong, for it was founded on truth. It was truth. Does not St. Bernard remind us that "Humility is Truth"? It is a truth which, inasmuch as it is a home-thrusting truth, none of us can afford to ignore. It is the truth all about oneself in one's triple alliance with God, with one's neighbor, with one's own soul.
Humility may not inappropriately be called the starting post in that race for Heaven of which the Apostle speaks. It is the terminus a quo in the spiritual life. It is the first of the many lessons set before us in the school of sanctity-----a difficult lesson, I grant you, and one which nature seeks to shirk or to put off indefinitely, but for the man who means to graduate for Heaven there is no escape from it.
Accordingly our Divine Master, who is not exacting, reminds all His would-be followers, without distinction, that they must learn this lesson, get it well by heart, and into the heart; for Humility is the alphabet out of which every other virtue is formed and built up. It is the soil of the garden of the soul, "the good ground" on which the Divine Sower goes forth to sow His seed. It is in the school of Christ, and from the lips of Christ Himself that we must learn Humility. "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart." By following the Master Himself, by studying His Own Heart, we have to acquire, to appreciate and to practice this first, this vital, this vitalizing, energizing virtue, without which no man can hope to make any progress at all on the Royal Road heavenward.
So all-important for us creatures is the acquisition of Humility that our Divine Lord became man in order to put before us in His own person this great object-lesson in its most attractive beauty. "He humbled Himself"; "He emptied Himself"; He became the humblest of the humble; because, as St. Augustine points out, the "Divine Master was unwilling to teach what He Himself was not; He was unwilling to command what He Himself did not practice."
With our dear and blessed Lord as our great example of Humility, we may well, one and all of us, set about the practicing, with some hope of success, this indispensable virtue-----this maximum bonum, as St. Thomas calls it.
To his own soul Cardinal Vaughan found so much benefit from the cultivation in it of Humility, that he resolved, at no small cost to himself, in the feeble state in which he then was, to gird himself and to go forth sowing broadcast, into the soil of the hearts of the laity as well as of clergy, this despised little mustard seed of which men speak so much but know so little.
It was Padre Gaetano's work on Humility that had been the instrument, in God's hand, of helping the Cardinal. Accordingly in his zeal for souls he proposed to put it into English, so as to bring the work within the reach of all such as care for the health, growth and strength, of their own individual souls in solid virtue.
That the Cardinal has left us a precious legacy in this treatise on Humility will, I feel sure, be the verdict of all who study, or who only peruse these pages, done into English from the Italian of the devout Minor Capuchin whose death occurred over two centuries ago.
Between the covers of this unpretending volume there is nourishment for all who "hunger and thirst after justice"-----for the proficient in spiritual life as well as for the beginner-----Humility, as it were, holding in itself all those elements that are needed to build up the strong Christian man. In it the soul will find a sovereign remedy for its many ills, a matchless balm for its many wounds, while a soul-beauty all is own will spring up in all who shall learn how to use it wisely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." He who is truly humble," says St. Bernard, "knows how to convert all his humiliations into humility," while out of humility God can raise a soul to what otherwise might be, giddy heights of sanctity. If anyone should need a proof of this statement I will refer him to any chapter in the life of any Saint in our Calendar. For a moment gaze into the face of "the Woman clothed with the Sun" and remember the words, "Respexit humilitatem ancillae suae." The height of Mary's sanctity is gauged by the depth of her humility: "Exaltavit humiles."
To the Clergy and Ladies of Charity, to whom the Cardinal dedicates these "Thoughts and Sentiments," this volume will come with very special meaning. It enshrines the last words of a great Churchman, of a truly spiritual man, while it conveys a special message from the Cardinal's heart to all readers.
This treatise is a sort of last will and testament of Cardinal Vaughan, bequeathed to those with whom he was most intimately associated in work for the good of souls. It is a legacy from one who made Humility a life-long study, and who had more opportunities than most of us know of making tremendous strides in it, through the humiliations which he welcomed as most precious opportunities offered him by God for the salvation and sanctification of his soul. May he rest in peace.
BERNARD VAUGHAN, S.J.
Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo is being considered for beatification.